A Day in the Life of a Dairy Farmer by Stephanie Alexandre

It’s Monday morning and my day starts, like most mornings, between 4:30 and 5:00 am. Monday’s start off a bit busier because we have our weekly management team meeting at 6:30 am and a farm breakfast directly after, which I prepare.

It’s dark at 4:30 in the morning here on the northernmost coast of California.  Low fog hangs above the pastures and in the pines and redwoods. I can see the fog illuminated by the one light that hangs on the front of the dairy barn across the road from our farmhouse. The lit fog is peaceful; perfectly congruent with that time of the day. I hear the ‘cockadoodledoo’ of the early morning roosters that don’t know it’s still dark!

The birthing barn is just to the left of the milk barn and I can hear the mooing of cows ready to give birth.  If I walked over, I would find one of our maternity barn team, who monitors the mommas through the night. 

I make a pot of coffee in my pour over coffee that has made, literally, thousands of cups of coffee for the many hundreds of visitors to our kitchen over the past 30 years. This morning I make extra for the team of 10 that will join me at 8 after our meeting. 

I open the lid of the equally hard-working staple in my kitchen – a 10 quart cast iron pot – to check the beans I had on slow-cooking through the night.  I check on the pork roast I overnight cooked in the oven that will also be part of our breakfast this morning. On Sunday I replenished our home egg supply, so I know I have enough for the team.

Blake and I raised our 5 children in this house and have cooked for 29 years on an Elmira Stove Works electric oven. It has its quirks, but it has gotten a great job done for hundreds of grateful eaters.

Our house is also old and has it’s quirks but it’s filled with the things I love – dairy antiques – some of which passed down from my ancestors - pictures of my children and grandchildren and  generations of dairy farmers in Blake and my families, comfy furniture, handmade quilts and a beautiful farm table that can (and often has) seat 16 people.

Until this week, my ‘office’ has been the farthest end of this wonderful table: with 2 computers back to back and my office supplies and printer behind me in an antique cupboard. I spent the weekend recently converting the guest bedroom into a real office for myself and I head there, in my pajamas, to check email for any urgent matters, and to get in a half hour or so of uninterrupted work.

I head to my bedroom for a quick shower. It rains 70-110 inches a year here and we draw our water from our well  - which is never dry. The water is clean and refreshing and we do not have to treat it before it comes into our house.  We have some frequent guests from Southern California who say they come to visit just to wash their hair in our shower water!

I get dressed in jeans and a shirt with a sweater or vest. It is a consistent cool temperature here next to the ocean at the very top of California – it is usually between 58 and 68 degrees, year-round.

I walk across the road to our office above the barn and join our team for our meeting.

At 8 am we all head to the house for breakfast, where I trade my vest for one of my 8 aprons I am constantly using for cooking for the masses. 

Someone helps me crack eggs and I scramble them with shredded cheese and chopped tortillas. 

The view from the kitchen window over my sink is one of my favorites – which is wonderful because I spend a lot of time there! I look over many acres of pastures to the north with the forested hills beyond. The cows leisurely walk in a long line from the milking barn past my view 4 times a day. There are hundreds of birds, from swallows to raptors, and the rainy days are just as lovely as the sunny ones. 

The team comes through the mudroom door, take off their boots if they have been in a field and hang their coats on a peg. Our daughter-in-law comes to help and brings her little ones with her, increasing our laughter around the table.

Everyone knows where to grab a mug and a plate and when the food is ready on the table, we thank the Lord for our blessings and eat amidst cross-chatter about life and farming.

There’s chatter about a truck that needs a new axle, an employee daughter who’s graduating from high school, a newspaper that would like to talk about regenerative agriculture, the height of the grass in field 37 and a sighting of 3 new young eagles.  

Breakfast is brief and chatter turns to focused talk about strategy and finance before everyone heads to their next task of the day.

For me, its finishing the clean-up of the food and kitchen, most often with the help of one or two others.

Before I take off my apron, I pull out the bulk spices to mix up a new batch of herbal meat rub I use for our roasts, and offer in our farm store to accompany the organic beef and pork we sell for our local community. I check on my kefir and maybe make a new jar. I have been using the same kefir mother grains for 20 years.  I love kefir – so good for your gut microbiome. I usually blend the kefir with frozen organic fruit and our egg yolks to increase the nutrient-density of the smoothie.

I’m a former chapter leader for the Weston A. Price foundation and apply most of their principles of ancestral eating (high animal fat, non-processed) and food-as-medicine to my family’s life and to our products.

I’m multi-tasking, chatting on the phone with our marketing director about upcoming trade shows or social media or farmers markets.

I hang my apron (for now!) and sit at my computer.

Like all farmers, I wear many hats, and my time at the computer reflects my many roles. For the next 6 hours, if we don’t have a special event, like a photo shoot for a western clothing manufacturer, a visit from a grocery chain team, or a food brand looking to use our milk as an ingredient, I work at my computer on financials, marketing and answer emails. Constantly on my mind is how we can do something better. As a child, I prayed I would marry a dairy farmer because I love everything about it – the cows, the milk and the lifestyle. What I didn’t realize was how many hours I would be at the computer. But as dairy farmers who launched a brand, we have stretched our finances and Blake and I have to make many tough decisions. Some days, as an owner, as I sit at the computer, I have to be in that role.

Because of this, some evenings I go to bed stressed, and like many farmers before me, I give it up to the Lord in prayer. I trust that He is directing us to feed his people with better dairy products from our grass pastures that provides food the way God intended. I read this in my devotional tonight,

“I may infuse within you a dream that seems far beyond your reach. You know that in yourself you cannot achieve such a goal. Thus begins your journey of profound reliance on Me. It is a faith-walk, taken one step at a time, leaning on Me as much as you need. This is not a path of continual success but of multiple failures. However, each failure is followed by a growth spurt, nourished by increased reliance on Me. Enjoy the blessedness of a victorious life, through deepening your dependence on Me."

All is quiet; my heart is full.